Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Springbok No 8 Pierre Spies may feel like a renewed man as the Vodacom Bulls continue their resurgence in this year’s Super Rugby competition, but he warned his teammates that they have achieved nothing yet.
The big No 8 has been one of the Bulls stars, whose fortunes have mirrored the team’s performance this season but now, after six wins in a row, the Bulls are one game away from a playoff place that seemed a distant wish when they returned from the overseas leg of their competition fixtures.
Spies, like his teammates, were mobbed by dozens of primary school children at Tuesday’s practice session, who turned up with their parents and teachers to get a glimpse of their heroes. While the players stood for almost an hour after practice posing for photographs and signing autographs for the fans, the sense of how big Saturday’s game has become began to sink in.
“Its great to see the excitement here at Loftus, especially with the game sold out. It’s a good sign. We’ve worked hard to get here, but we’re nowhere near where we want to be,” Spies said after signing a plethora of autographs.
Spies rejected thoughts that the Bulls were “almost there” with the win good enough to secure the playoff spot. In an all or nothing game, second best is nowhere near good enough in the Springbok’s radar.
“It doesn’t feel like we’re almost there. We know that both we and the Sharks can lose everything on Saturday. We really can’t look further than this weekend. On Sunday we will look further, every week is still a final for us, and this is just one more,” he explained.
“It almost puts you in a good situation because you know there isn’t any other option but to win. The pressure is there, but it helps you to perform. I’ve got to give credit to our management team and Victor for the way they have handled it. It has been great; the way they have made sure everyone has been positive every week and kept everyone on the right track.”
But now that the crunch comes, the Bulls know they will have to perform. There simply isn’t any other option. Six straight wins in “finals rugby”, as they have termed it must become seven to have the chance of going any further.
“We’re focused on what we want to do. Since we returned from the tour we have known that we can’t do anything else but win. It’s great to be playing at home again and all we can do is put all our energy into this weekend’s game against the Sharks.”
Spies was the subject of so much criticism early in the season, along with several of his Bok teammates as the Bulls engine stuttered and looked set to stall. Now with the team feeding off their own momentum, he is enjoying every minute, and loving the fact that the Bulls are proving people wrong.
“Criticism is part of the game, and you need to back it. But when it makes a difference, then you see those players come through. You really can’t replace the players that are here, and the last six weeks you can see the way these players have come through and performed.
We’ve gone through some difficult times, but we’ve come through it together.
“It is a long season, we had a rough start and the pressure was there.